Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids has maintained consistency in his side that will take on the Cell C Sharks, making one forced change to his starting XV for the Vodacom Super Rugby encounter at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
Following a season-ending knee injury to loosehead prop Justin Forwood in the Southern Kings’ most recent fixture – a 44-3 win against Melbourne Rebels a fortnight ago – the head coach has brought in the experienced Schalk van der Merwe to start in the No1 jersey for the only change to his starting XV.
On the bench, Chris Heiberg will come in to provide prop cover, while Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda will be in line to make his Southern Kings debut from the bench as second row cover.
A final decision on the backup hooker will be made on Friday after the Captain’s Run pending a fitness test for Kurt Haupt, who sustained a minor ankle injury at training on Tuesday. Should Haupt not be pass the fitness test, former SA Under-20 hooker Tango Balekile will be on standby to occupy the bench.
“Kurt twisted his ankle at training on Tuesday. We are just nursing it at the moment and we will see how it recovers between now and Friday,” Davids said on Thursday.
“I think everything’s gone very well this week. The team has recovered well and there has been a lot of energy in the camp and a lot of excitement during our training sessions. We have kept to our normal proceedings and have had a good week until today. We are looking forward to our Captain’s Run tomorrow.
With a massive campaign to fill the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium through the campaign #FILLOURSTADIUM which has gained great traction on social media and the general public, the head coach indicated that although the team was fully behind the campaign, it was also crucial for the side to remain focused on what needs to be done on the field of play.
“I think our guys are quite focused on what we want to achieve and do – we spoke about it. There is quite some excitement in terms of getting better support and getting the fans here at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium,” Davids said.
“We are glad that we could pull off a win in our last two games. We just want to build on that feeling and energy we received from all the support. The more support we get, the more encouraging it will be for the guys to do better. We are aware of the campaign, but we are very focused on what we have to do, and we will zone in on that focus until Saturday.”
Southern Kings COO Charl Crous also gave recognition to the imminent large crowds that can be expected at the stadium on Saturday.
“The team has done very well and everybody knows the effort that they have put in with the results that we have seen. It is not just the last two victories, but the on-field performances too. This is reward for all the hard work and effort,” Crous said.
“There has been a call to action to our fans to come support this team, and we hope to convert the big flow of support on social media to actual match attendance, supporting the guys on match day. We want to thank the media for the continued support to ensure people come out in numbers to support our boys.”
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium’s Business Development Manager, Raaziq Poole, encouraged supporters to buy their tickets on time to avoid a rush and disappointment on match-day.
“From the Stadium’s side, we are ready to host Saturday’s events. We are fully operational and are planning for big numbers to come on Saturday,” Poole said.
“We encourage fans to come out in numbers and most importantly, to get their tickets early at any participating Ticket Pro outlets – these include Edgars Active, PostNet, Jet Mart, Engen and Caltex outlets – to avoid the rush on match-day although our ticket office will be selling tickets.”
Tickets cost R60 for East Stand seating, while a spot in the West Stand costs R80.
There will be a Fan Park with a Beer Garden and live music.
Events will begin with a match between the EP Academy and Stellenbosch Academy on the B-field at 12h30.
A curtain-raiser between EP Kings and Border Bulldogs, who will battle it out in a SuperSport Rugby Challenge clash, will kick-off at 14h30 on the Main Field.
The main match will kick-off at 17h15.
The Southern Kings squad to take on the Cell C Sharks is:
15. Masixole Banda
14. Wandile Mjekevu
13. Berton Klaasen
12. Luzuko Vulindlu
11. Makazole Mapimpi
10. Lionel Cronje (capt)
9. Louis Schreuder
8. Andisa Ntsila
7. Tyler Paul
6. Chris Cloete
5. Wilhelm van der Sluys
4. Irne Herbst
3. Ross Geldenhuys (v/c)
2. Martin Bezuidenhout
1. Schalk van der Merwe
16. Kurt Haupt / Tango Balekile
17. Chris Heiberg
18. Dayan van der Westhuizen
19. Lubabalo Mtyanda
20. Stefan Willemse
21. Johan Steyn
22. Pieter-Steyn de Wet
23. Nicolaas Hanekom
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